By Gudrun Schultz

  LISBON, Portugal, March 8, 2007 ( – The Catholic nation of Portugal is facing the imminent legalization of abortion on demand with the approval of a cross-party abortion bill by a legislative committee yesterday, The People’s Daily Online reported earlier today.

  The Portuguese parliament’s constitutional affairs committee approved the measure that would permit unqualified abortion access up to the 10th week of pregnancy. The measure is expected to go before lawmakers today and will likely be voted into law.

  The abortion bill was introduced jointly by the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Left Block and the Green Party, all of which had participated in drafting the legislation. The ruling Socialist Party holds an absolute majority in the legislature—the party has been working to introduce pro-abortion legislation for the past decade.

  The Social Democrat Party and the Christian Democrat Party voted against the measure in the committee, and are expected to oppose it in the legislative vote.

  A referendum on abortion held Feb.11 was rendered void under Portugal law when less than half the population turned out to vote. Despite the low turnout, Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates nevertheless declared he would accept the results showing 57 percent of those who voted supported abortion.

  The referendum results showed only 26 percent of the population were clearly in favor of a change to the law, however. The remaining three-quarters of the population were either opposed or undecided.

  A well-organized opposition movement led by Catholic Church leaders and lay organizations worked to prevent the introduction of the legislation. A previous referendum in 1998 was a victory for those opposing the legislation, but was rejected because of a low voter turnout of just 30 percent.

  A large pro-life demonstration in Lisbon on Jan. 28 drew a crowd of more than 18,000, indicating strong support for pro-life laws in the country. Regardless, the government declared its intention of pushing through early-stage abortion on demand following the Feb. 11 referendum.

  As a concession to opponents, the legislation includes a mandatory three-day cooling-off period between a request for an abortion and the carrying out of the procedure.

  The law is expected to come into effect before the beginning of next summer.

  See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

  Portugal Government Shows Hypocrisy in Abortion Vote Bias

  Portugal Anti-Abortion Demonstration Draws 18,000 Pro-Life Supporters